We will be looking at the draft position by position. Previously, Alex Schieferdecker looked at defenders and today we’ll look at goalkeepers. Prior to this series, four 55.1 writers made lists of the players on every team that we’d protect if we were that team. Looking at our selections in aggregate should give a good sense of which players are likely to be available.
Looking back at previous expansion drafts, very few clubs protect a second goalkeeper. In 2014, only FC Dallas protected Chris Seitz and Dan Kennedy. We’re keeping that in mind when looking through these rosters.
Minnesota United look unlikely to bring any of their existing goalkeepers to MLS, though Sammy Ndjock would have the best shot. Ndjock, despite a couple of howlers, got noticeably better in 2016 and on his day can be an amazing goalkeeper. However, using an international spot on a keeper who the team may not see as an automatic start may be too much of a risk for them.
Listed below are the goalkeepers who our writers thought could be unprotected in the upcoming draft. Bolded players are on my list of targets, and the additional italicized players are featured here.
Alec Kann, Andre Rawls, Andrew Dykstra, Brad Knighton, Brad Stuver, Bryan Meredith, Calle Brown, Charlie Horton, Charlie Lyon, Chris Konopka, Chris Seitz, Clément Diop, Cody Cropper, Dan Kennedy, Earl Edwards Jr., Eric Kronberg, Jeff Attinella, Joe Willis, John Berner, John McCarthy, Josh Saunders, Kyle Reynish, Matt Lampson, Matt Pacifici, Matt Turner, Paolo Tornaghi, Patrick McLain, Ryan Herman, Ryan Meara, Steve Clark, Tim Melia, Travis Worra, Tyler Miller, Wade Hamilton, Zac MacMath, Zack Steffen
Zac MacMath (Rapids, 25, USA)
Zac MacMath, aka the Mathlete, is like the canary in the mine shaft for Designated Player goalkeepers. First shunted to the side by the Philadelphia Union’s disastrous signing of Raïs M’Bolhi, MacMath moved to Colorado and seemed to be carving out a space for himself as the number one. That is, until Tim Howard brought his beard from Everton and pushed MacMath to the side.
But if Howard makes MacMath surplus to requirements during the season, MacMath has a chance to put down a marker by leading the Rapids to an MLS Cup. Howard injured his abductor last week against Mexico and MacMath will now find himself starting in goal as Colorado plays in the semifinals this weekend.
Howard’s DP contract runs through December 2020, making it hard to see how MacMath fits into the Rapids’ long-term plans. Is he worth protecting at the expense of another member of the defense? Tell you what, Pablo, if you leave Dillon Powers unprotected, you can keep MacMath.
For Minnesota, MacMath could be a really solid building-block. He has moments of madness, but he has four seasons of regularly starting in MLS under his belt.
Zack Steffen (Crew, 21, USA)/Steve Clark (Crew, 30, USA)
The Crew likely see Steffen as a valuable prospect. The young Pennsylvanian moved to Germany for a year to play for Freiburg’s second team. The Crew also likely view Steve Clark as a valuable veteran in between the pipes. The question is which do they value more?
With Clark in goal, the Crew let in 58 goals in 2016 and so it may be that Gregg Berhalter feels he needs an upgrade and he doesn’t want to lose a young prospect like Steffen. He could leave Clark unprotected and bring in another capable keeper.
Or, if Berhalter thinks the leaky goal problem isn’t to blame on Clark, he could leave Steffen unprotected knowing that Atlanta and Minnesota don’t have the luxury of using one of five expansion draft picks on a young goalkeeper. If I had to guess I would say that the Crew leaves Steffen unprotected and neither team takes him. But if Minnesota could sort out their starting goalkeeper for next year, Steffen could be worth a punt.
Cody Cropper (Revolution, 23, USA)
Cody has the rare advantage of claiming hometown allegiances to both expansion teams, having been born in Atlanta and growing up in Minnesota. Will either of these teams want to bring in the hometown hero?
Cropper spent the last few years in England (his father is English) with Southampton and then MK Dons, where he made nine first team appearances. After leaving England with a long-term injury, he came back to Minnesota for rehab before signing with the New England Revolution.
What makes it unlikely that Minnesota will pick up Cropper in the draft is that the team already got a good look at him. If they thought he was ready to start in MLS, they would have signed him before New England. To pass on him and then use an expansion draft pick on him would be terribly poor planning.
Jeff Attinella (RSL, 28, USA)
If there is one constant in Minnesota soccer history, it is a penchant for signing former bogeymen. Jeff Attinella led the Tampa Bay Rowdies over the Minnesota Stars in penalty kicks in the 2012 final. We have not forgotten and we want to assimilate him.
Attinella has proven a really effective deputy for Nick Rimando, when Rimando is off on US duty. Of the keepers I’m featuring, Attinella strikes me as the top candidate for starting in 2017. And that, quite simply, is why he won’t be available. Rimando is 37 and if Real Salt Lake are going to succeed in the future, they need a plan of succession. This may be one of the rare cases where a team protects two goalkeepers.
Ryan Meara (NYRB, 26, USA)
The New York Red Bulls have a remarkably good starting keeper in Luis Robles and a good, young goalkeeper in Meara. Unlike Real Salt Lake, though, they don’t have the luxury of protecting two goalkeepers.
Meara may not have the high ceiling of Attinella, but he has already done well for himself in his MLS starts over the last few years. If Attinella is the best of this crop of keepers available, Meara is perhaps the best of the players very likely to be available. It would mean separating the local boy from his home, but time to move out of mom’s house, Ryan. The Great White North is calling to you.